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UPDATED: July 15, 2014 NO. 22 MAY 29, 2014
Decentralizing Power
Tighter restrictions are imposed on the heads of Party and government departments
By Yin Pumin



China's anti-graft authority announced on May 8 that Liao Shaohua, former Standing Committee member of the Guizhou Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Party chief of Zunyi in Guizhou, has been expelled from the Party and dismissed from public office.

Investigations found that Liao used his positions for personal gains and accepted bribes, according to a statement from the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).

Liao abused his power and was responsible for the loss of state property, the statement revealed. He also violated Party regulations and is suspected of breaking the law. Liao's case has been handed over to prosecutors.

The CCDI announced in last October that Liao was being investigated for graft. He was removed from his posts days later.

Anti-corruption experts say that the case of Liao reflects the reality that a lot of power is concentrated in the hands of local leading officials.

"As leading officials tend to monopolize resources, personnel management and construction projects, it is easy for them to become corrupt as there is little supervision from those beneath them," said Fu Siming, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

Fortunately, the Chinese leadership has recognized the serious situation and determined to tighten restrictions on, and supervision of, the exercise of power by leading officials.

Responsibilities and the scope of power of leading officials of Party and government departments will be specified, according to a decision on deepening China's reform that was adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee last November.

Unbridled power

Last September, worldwide attention was focused on a trial for Bo Xilai, former Party Chief of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau. Bo was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in east China's Shandong Province on September 22, 2013 on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

According to the verdict given by the court, Bo was found guilty of taking bribes totaling 20.44 million yuan ($3.28 million), either personally or through his family members, between 1999 and 2012. Bo experienced a number of promotions and steps up the career ladder during this period, transitioning from the mayor of Dalian in northeast China's Liaoning Province, to secretary of the CPC Dalian Committee. He later became the governor of Liaoning and then minister of commerce before eventually becoming the Party chief of Chongqing, the position he held at the time of his arrest.

Bo helped those who gave him bribes obtain preferential quotas necessary to import cars and work on petrochemical projects.

The verdict also revealed that Bo, while serving as Dalian's Party chief in 2000, assigned Wang Zhenggang, then Director of the Dalian Bureau of Urban and Rural Planning and Land, to take charge of a project to be built by Dalian for a higher authority.

Funds from the Dalian government were originally used for the projects and in March 2002, after the project was completed, the higher authority allocated 5 million yuan ($802,500) of reimbursement. Wang proposed that Bo distribute the money among his family. Bo consented and asked Wang to talk to his wife, Bogu Kailai, to make arrangements. The 5 million yuan was eventually transferred to an account designated by Bogu.

"Local Party Chiefs have enjoyed an amazingly high level of power for many years," said Yan Jirong, a professor at Peking University's School of Government. "But if they make mistakes or bad decisions, nobody at a local level is able to correct their mistakes."

According to the CCDI, more than one third of officials at or above the county level who were dismissed in recent years due to involvement in corruption scandals were heads of government departments or Party organs.

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